Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere Opens Up About Police, Racism and Leading Through Civil Unrest

Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere // photo Jennifer Shertzer
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere // photo Jennifer Shertzer

When Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere first heard about the killing of George Floyd, he says he experienced a wide range of emotions, from shock, horror and sadness to anger and disgust. One emotion he did not necessarily feel was surprise.

“As a Black man in America, I think the ‘here we go again’ I felt was because it’s commonplace for things like this to occur,” he said. “Maybe not to the extent where someone dies or makes it into the news, but I can remember instances of my own where I felt I was treated unfairly or in a demeaning way.”

Mayor LaRosiliere moved to Plano in 1994. In 2013 he became the city’s first African American mayor.

According to him, it’s no accident that there have not been any high-profile cases of violent police misconduct in Plano. He sees it as the product of years of hard work and very intentional relationship building. The result is a mutual trust between police and the community that’s not always seen elsewhere. He believes this was a major contributing factor to keeping local protests peaceful over the past month.

Of course that’s not to say that there still isn’t work that needs to be done. He says the national reckoning on the role of police provides an opportunity to revisit existing procedures and ensure that our city remains at the forefront of modern policing. However, at this point he sees no reason to take any responsibilities away from the department as some people have suggested.

One of the things to come out of the George Floyd killing has been the perception of the phrase “Black lives matter.” Multiple opinion polls show a sharp increase in support of the movement from white Americans over the past month. Mayor LaRosiliere says he finds that very interesting, especially considering that it’s still common to hear people counter with the phrase “all lives matters.” To him that devalues the meaning of “Black lives matter” because empirical evidence shows that Black lives are treated differently, and in many cases as if they don’t matter.

“It’s great to see that people are now understanding it’s not to say that we matter more than anyone else. It’s to say that we’ve been treated worse than most so it’s important to verbalize it, and that hopefully that turns to action.”

Mayor LaRosiliere says that while he may not see rampant racism in his daily life, it’s undeniable that color still matters to many. He may be recognizable close to home, but when he’s away from Plano, he’s just another Black man.

“Every single one of us has preconceived ideas,” he said. “It’s just a question of us being comfortable enough to acknowledge that and learn from it.”

To that end, he sees the current situation as an opportunity for white Americans to better comprehend issues like police brutality that Black Americans have known about all along. 

There are two specific things that he hopes will come out of the current situation:

The first is an absolute recognition and affirmation that racism exists. He hopes that more people will be comfortable enough to say that and realize that structures of racism are pervasive in the lives of Black Americans.

His second hope is that more people will accept that silence or non-action is akin to consent. He sees this moment as an opportunity for everyone to come to the realization that racism exists everywhere. It’s institutionalized, subtle in some cases and very obvious in others. Everyone should figure out what they can do in their own lives to make a difference.

“I say this with all sincerity. Don’t feel you have to go save the world. You have to figure out what in your life you are comfortable with to help the cause, whether it’s criminal justice, housing, education, mentorship. Whatever it is, we all do our small part,” he said. “You don’t have to go lift the heavy loads; you just have to be conscious about it every day.”

Mayor LaRosiliere with Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell in 2018 // photo Roberto Hernandez

Mentoring students has been a priority during his mayoral tenure. Two years ago, the city partnered with Paul Quinn College, a private historically Black college located in Dallas, to help students access education, housing and jobs. The result: There are now 50 interns gaining experience with local companies. The mayor has also sponsored his own summer internship program which helps high schoolers experience local companies and organizations.

“These are examples of when businesses, education and government come together on behalf of our future,” he said.

Both programs have had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Zoom classes and meetings becoming the norm. It’s a world that he has had to adapt to as well. He admits that governing through a global pandemic and then civil unrest is challenging. The events happen in real time, with no manual on how to react to each new situation. It requires flexibility and a willingness to make real-time decisions.

Mayor LaRosiliere with Plano Mayor’s Summer Internship program participants in 2017 // photo James Edward

Mayor LaRosiliere says the best he can do is to rely on the three pillars of integrity, intent and intelligence. That means taking action because it’s the right thing to do, it helps as many as possible and is based on solid information.

“It doesn’t mean that you will make the same decisions as someone else and it doesn’t mean you are right,” he said. “It means you have gone through the process to come to the best place.”

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5 Comments

  • We have a very good mayor. It is obvious the city is run well; with all the accolades that Plano receives. Keep up the good leadership.

  • No, no, no, no! There is no place in Plano for race baiting identity politics. I moved here to get away from this cancer. Just because the mayor is black doesn’t mean he has to virtue signal to the racist authoritarian left in this country. If this is the way the mayor thinks he should act I’ll be voting for someone else at the next election.

  • Embarrassing that my city’s mayor would indulge in feelings of victimhood that go against the facts. Someone should tell him 13 do 52, and Fentanyl Floyd had over triple the lethal dose of Fentanyl in his system, as well as three other illegal drugs.

  • We had a black president for 8 years; many state governors, mayors, police chiefs, etc –are black; many others with power and wealth –are black; there is no segregation in schools, except the one sometimes demanded by some black students; So what’s with this “institutional racism”? The very fact that BLM can riot and destroy with relative impunity exposes this idea of “institutional racism” as a lie. What we are suffering from in this country now is “Institutional Anarchy”!
    ALL LIVES MATTER
    NO PEACE ~ NO JUSTICE ~ NO COUNTRY
    VOTE for Law & Order!

  • Plano has a long history as a prosperous, quiet, residential community. As noted in a 2011 NBC News article, Plano has a high per-capita income rate, strong tax base, and well-staffed police, fire and education departments, besides a strong neighborhood watch program. These and several other factors tend to dispel discontent and social unrest. Mayor LaRosiliere inherited this peaceful and bountiful situation, which he has seen continue through his term.

    Black Lives Matter is a Marxist revolutionary group that uses racial issues as justification for attacking the foundations of Western Civilization in general, and the US in particular. They are the antithesis of Plano’s spirit, and the core of Plano’s wealth, which is based largely on the several corporate headquarters in the city. If you want to turn Plano into the pot of roiling muck that is Seattle or other Leftist-run cities, keep pushing the Left’s mantra of division, discontent and victimhood.

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